Writing a winning CV

Competition is tough for jobs as more and more hopefuls apply for every vacancy. How do you make your CV stand out from 100 others? It’s a tough challenge, but here are my guidelines for structuring your CV for success.

Use the title

Your CV’s title is not ‘Curriculum Vitae’ or ‘Resume’. It’s YOU. Type your name in a text slightly larger text than the rest of the document, with your mobile phone number and email address just underneath – these are the only contact details most companies will tend to use nowadays.

Summary profile

This is the branded package that is you. Include essential information about your expertise, the level at which you work and the critical skills relevant to the job you’re applying for, in no fewer than five lines. This is often the hardest bit of your CV to write, it needs to have impact and sell your skills.

As your interviewer will most likely decide whether to keep reading on the basis of what they see here. This is your personal mini advertisement, there to capture attention and tell the recruiter why you are a potential fit for the job – fundamentally why they should buy you.  This can be tweaked to include a career objective for graduates and school leavers.

Career experience

List your professional experience in reverse-chronological order, so your current position is first.

Include the employing company’s name, your job title and bullet points describing your key achievements. Use short and crisp sentences, with bullet points and active verbs to describe how you made a difference. Remember to include real examples! This is not about what you do, but the impact that you have made.

Your two most recent employment details are typically the most relevant to the role you are now seeking, so give more details on these. The further down the list you go, the more concise you can be. Remember, you shouldn’t just list your responsibilities, but highlight what you did and the results you achieved.

Qualifications, training and professional development

List the key educational achievements most relevant to your application, and exclude those that are not. Remember to do these in chronological order but you don’t need to include dates if you don’t want to.

Remember to include company training and courses you attended that did not result in a qualification, as they will still demonstrate your level, experience and commitment to learning and development. Finally, add any memberships of professional bodies.

Personal information

Here, you complete the picture of you that your interviewer will need. Include, for example, your address, and whether you have a driving licence, particularly if this is relevant for the role.

You may also want to include some hobbies or other interests, although the jury’s out on whether this is a good idea or not. If you do, think them through and make sure they are relevant to your application and you feel comfortable discussing them in an interview as they may prompt questions.  You no longer need to include your date of birth, religion or marital status.


It is no longer a necessity to include names and addresses of referee. They waste space and if an employer needs them they will ask for them.

CV length

Keep it to two pages or less if you can and your key information on page one.  Condense the information down if your CV is too long by removing older information that is not necessary or is no longer relevant to the role you are applying for. Your CV is most likely to be viewed on screen rather than in print.


Once you have a ‘base’ CV you can use this as the starting point to tailor to each application you make.  This is vital as the tone and emphasis in your CV as well as the skills you highlight may need tweaking and changing to match the requirements of a specific job role and the company itself.

This is the tricky part and requires most of your preparation time as you need to understand the company and the job role and then tailor your CV to their requirements.  When you do this it is important to keep a copy of the CV you send to each company so you use the right one if you are successful in getting an interview.


People often get carried away trying to make their CV look snazzy and over complicated. (Take a look at my blog on visual CVs for a view on those in particular.)

Keep it simple and use a readable font like Arial, Tahoma or Calibri.  12pt is a good size but 10pt is acceptable especially on bullet point lists. Avoid using lots of different formatting like underlining and highlighting bold text – choose one and stick to the same format throughout.

Using these tips should give you a good start on having a winning CV. Above all else you should give time to creating your CV and not rush it. Once it’s done you can then move on to creating an engaging cover letter but that’s a whole other blog!

If you’re feeling a bit baffled and want some help re-writing your CV, why not let me help you with that? Give me a call to discuss my CV writing services on 07765 894040.

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